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History of Jazz

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  1,475 ratings  ·  37 reviews

Jazz is the most colorful and varied art form in the world and it was born in one of the most colorful and varied cities, New Orleans. From the seed first planted by slave dances held in Congo Square and nurtured by early ensembles led by Buddy Belden and Joe "King" Oliver, jazz began its long winding odyssey across America and around the world, giving flower to a thousand

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Published November 20th 1997 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published January 1st 1997)
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Jul 29, 2007 Frank rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: jazz fans
This book helped me consolidate my understanding of the development of jazz. The book strikes a good balance between breadth and depth. Keep your iPod handy while reading.
A very good read if you've listened to jazz, like it, and already have a bit of background knowledge. If this is going to be your introduction to jazz, then perhaps this isn't the place to start, as there's a fair bit of name dropping and music notation/theory that can be intimidating.

It's well written and a joy to read; it balances biography, a little music theory/jargon, social history, etc. I found it really absorbing. However, I also listened to music most of the way through in order to giv
A nice overview of America's most important contribution to the arts. The book is a rather comprehensive survey, so few readers will love every period and movement covered. (I personally felt like the Swing Era would never end.) But it's always difficult, in any survey, to allocate attention in a way that will satisfy everyone. Gioia basically allocates time chronologically, getting to bop halfway through the book. I would have liked to spend more time on the latter half of the century myself, g ...more
An incomplete grade in a course I was foolishly talked into marred my transcript while an undergraduate.

I don't like jazz. I have never liked jazz.

The professor jived on and on (during the few lectures I attended) about house parties and eating pig feet with keg beer in the "good old days" of jazz in New Orleans.

This book is a great bore to read. Hipsters who age pathetically after the age of 30 may think that this bizarre celebration of an American style of music is a boast for the coolness

This was an excellent overview of the topic, one of the best (probably the best, unless I'm blanking on something) I've encountered. Gioia does a great job of balancing the various strains of history -- aesthetic, social/cultural, economic, biographical –- required to fully grasp the topic, resulting in a history that is far more complete than the "great man" surveys that so often pass as jazz histories (looking at you, Ken Burns). That being said, it does tend to devolve into a series of bios n
The History of Jazz is a comprehensive book about the history of one of America's timeless genres from its roots in African tribal music through the time it was written (1997). Gioia deserves credit for at least trying to include Jazz Fusion, albeit it gets scant attention outside of Miles Davis's albums. However, the inclusion of Jazz Fusion at all is worth noting considering the stance of some in the Jazz community to simply skip over the 70s and 80s for the most part as if they were a dead ti ...more
Quite simply - the best history of jazz written thus far! Essential reading for even casual jazz listeners. Thorough, scholarly, objective and inclusive, but easy to read with a minimum of esoteric discourse. Even readers without any knowledge of music theory and composition should find it easy enough to skim over the bits about specific chord structures and still grasp the full meaning and import of those passages.

Really, my only complaint about this book is the author's overuse of the phrase "
Adam Campbell
This wonderfully written, jam-packed biography of the entity that is jazz could very easily have been titled The History and Evolution of Jazz. At times, it reads like an ethnography and seems as if Mr. Gioia is an invisible anthropologist or a fly on the walls of time documenting the blossoming of this ever-evolving beast. He explains the differences in styles of jazz such as New Orleans Jazz, Chicago Jazz, Big Band Jazz, Swing, Bebop, Cool, Third Wave, Hard Bop, Free Jazz, Fusion and Post-Mode ...more
Robert Morrow
A technical manual to jazz that will be of little use to the average reader unless that reader possesses an extraordinarily large jazz collection dating back to the days of ragtime. Musical contributions are only explained in terms of technical musical terms, so if you are also an average reader who did not learn how to read music, the book is next to worthless; how the music makes one feel is virtually ignored. This is a classic example of the style of literature that continues to make jazz sno ...more
I particularly enjoyed the first few chapters of this book. It may be that they are better for the lack of source material from the time period. The author feels free to visualize early jazz history as we vaguely understand it to have occurred. He writes a nuanced history that shies from cliche historical labels. This book may not be for the uninitiated in the jazz world, and even for the initiated it bogs down in latter chapters in details, and lists of album titles. For a book its size, it man ...more
Thomas Simard
A good read that will take you from the beginnings of jazz to the present. One is exposed to a number of musicians and their styles and brief biographies. It has piqued my interest in jazz again, and I'm seeking out many of the musicians mentioned.
Winter Rose
An Excellent & Well Researched Book!
This history is written with powerful narrative and composes a picture of the history of jazz not simply as facts and details, but rather as a compelling arc of a music and a lifestyle that transformed American culture. Gioia superbly shows how jazz was reflective of American culture, but, perhaps more importantly, how jazz acted as an impetus, driving the culture in new directions. Additionally, this history helps readers keep jazz artists and movements straight, thus serving as both an excelle ...more
Troy Soos
This is the best book on any type of music that I've ever read. It so well written, and the narrative flows so smoothly, that I hated to keep stopping to listen to the recordings that Gioia cites. So I read it slowly at first, stopping frequently to hear the music he discussed, then read it again to enjoy his prose. Gioia provides an excellent overview of jazz, including its history, the musicians, the cultural context in which jazz developed, and the differences in musical structure and convent ...more
Linda Hollingsworth
This mesmerizing book escorts us through the progression of jazz from its early beginnings to the possibilities of the future. We learn about the great musicians and their styles and the creation of new forms through a mind that appreciates and understands many of the subtleties that come into play. Gioia reveals in an interesting and clear account how personality and talent have been affected by societal change and world events to produce this singular music. I will continue to re-read this boo ...more
C. Murphy
Probably the best book on the history of jazz that exists. As other reviewers have pointed out, it may be more appropriate for an audience that already has an interest and a basic knowledge of jazz, but regardless, nobody writes more lucidly than does Gioia when it comes to this music. If you can get around the technical stuff, I think it would still be a good read.
This book is a great resource. I imagine I will read this off and on forever. It takes me at least 10 minutes to read a page, because I get caught up in googling all the different musicians he mentions. It's worth it though; don't rush yourself.

I'm currently reading the part on free jazz, and he does a great job of explaining the cultural and philosophical background and how that helps explain the music.
Glenn Robinson
Wonderful book on the history of jazz. Well researched and with enough new insights that made it very much worth my while. With the advent of youtube, I had a great time listening to the musicuans that Mr. Gioia wrote about. Enough info about jazz from the 1970 on that I picked up quite a bit new ideas of musicians that I need to listen to.
Nancy S
This was the textbook for my History of Jazz class. Written in a way that it is easy to read...especially for a textbook. My only complaint is that sometimes in the middle of reading about one person it just stops and starts on someone else. Hard to follow a timeline. But it did make me interested in Jazz.
I picked up this book to learn about jazz, in a more compact and manageable way than buying albums or downloading decades' worth of mp3s, but it seems music is best learned by listening after all. It's a comprehensive and enjoyable read, but probably much better with a jazz fan background.
Tony Gleeson
There are lots and lots and LOTS of books about jazz, its history, its players. This is THE best history I've read on the subject. It's readable, enjoyable, informative, and full of the best stuff I've found. You want to read one book about jazz? Try this one.
Wonderful, well written, interesting, the whole story of jazz from the beginning, trough the lives of its most important musicians.

Bellissimi, ben scritto, interessante, la storia del Jazz dagli inizi attraverso le vite dei suoi musicisti piú importanti.
Many people will have certain quibbles with the book (particularly in the more "modern" sections), but it's as as good as one could hope for from a summary of modest length. I like Gioia's jazz writing, and am particularly fond of his West Coast Jazz.
Shawn Teague
For a single volume history this can't be beat. Gioia is very smart and a talented writer to boot. His comments on modern jazz are especially insightful (though he doesn't/can't cover everyone). It also includes a good discography.
Simon Arnall
This book is certainly a must for anyone interested in jazz. The author does an amazing job of being complete and thorough while also managing to entertain and generally maintaining a high level of readability.
Elsie Klumpner
This is a fascinating & through history of American jazz. Well- written, well- researched. I will refer to it as I listen to jazz in the future. I can't imagine a better history.
If you want to understand the development of each idiom, and the key movers and shakers in the emergence of the periods of this great music, I recommend Gioia's book.
Janet Lee
Interesting descriptives of the history, bio of the artists , and notations of key pieces mentioned and the musical uniqueness each contributed to the period.
Nathan Hilkert
A concise and elegantly written book on a subject every American ought to know about and music that we all ought to enjoy more of.
Dense. Took me months to read, and I didn't listen to as much of the recordings mentioned as I wanted to.
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“As recently as the twentieth century, some cultures retained religious prohibitions asserting the “uncleanliness” of believers eating at the same table as musicians.” 1 likes
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